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16 Design Teams Offer Visions For St. Petersburg Pier

Design teams tasked with re-imagining the St. Petersburg Pier are split on whether to replace or renovate the pier and its iconic inverted, five-story pyramid built in the 1970s.

Of 16 teams submitting proposals by the city's Sept. 5 deadline, eight favor renovation, seven fall into the replacement column and one from New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture is "undetermined." 

While many local talents are represented, the chance at a high profile project also caught the attention of architects and designers in New York, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and London. Some teams are partnerships pulled together specifically to compete for this project.

This is the second round of requested proposals following the rejection last year of the futuristic design by Michael Maltzan Architecture dubbed "The Lens." Maltzan's plan won in competition against an initial list of 23 design teams nearly two years ago but met with disapproval from many residents.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community," says Architect Yann Weymouth, design director of the newly created St. Pete Design Group. "Our generation will not get another shot at this."

The competition also includes Tampa Bay-based teams of Alfonso Architects, ahha! Design Group and Cooper Johnson Smith Architects & Town Planners, all with replacement proposals.  Fisher and Associates in Clearwater; Perkins+Will in Atlanta; and Ross Barney Architects in Chicago are among those proposing renovations.
 
The team at St. Pete Design Group, which announced their partnership two days before the proposal deadline, is pursuing a renovation of the pier. At this point the vision is ideas and sketches, says Weymouth.

High profile projects, and even pyramids, are nothing new for Weymouth. His talents are visible in the designs of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The glass Grand Pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris is another iconic design he worked on with famed architect and mentor, I.M. Pei. 

After more than a dozen years affiliated with HOK, Weymouth is stepping into a new role as design director of the St. Pete Design Group. HOK was one of the semi-finalists in the first call for pier re-designs.

This time, Weymouth is partnered with Wannemacher Jensen Architects, which will work on the uplands and the approach to the pier. Harvard Jolly Architecture, which designed the inverted pyramid in the 1970s, will design the centerpiece.

"We're cognizant of what went before but the controversy has had a good effect," says Weymouth. "The community knows better what it wants and what it doesn't want. Seeing it renovated and unique and special and a St. Petersburg landmark -- a beacon -- that would be very good for the city."

Details on the 16 proposals will be forthcoming in the next months.

A selection committee appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman will choose up to eight design teams by Oct. 3. Those teams then will have about 10 weeks to add specifics to their visions and submit a budget in mid-December. Each team will receive a stipend of $30,000.

Projects must not cost more than $46 million, including $33 million for construction. City officials will eliminate designs that don't meet specified qualifications.

The public will get to weigh in with their opinions, probably in January. City officials are considering options, such as an online survey or opinion poll, to gather comments.

Afterward, the selection committee will rank the plans and submit a list in February to city council. Once a team is approved, design work could begin by mid-2015 with construction in 2016 and completion by late 2017. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Yann Weymouth, St. Pete Design Group

St. Pete Art & Fashion Week Struts Stuff For Warehouse Arts District

Showcasing St. Petersburg's creative talent is a passion of Dona Crowley, a marketing entrepreneur and aficionado of the city's evolving sophistication as a center for art and fashion.

Four years ago she launched the St. Pete Art & Fashion Week to put the spotlight on the artists and designers who live and work in St. Petersburg. This year's events kick-off with an Opening Night Party at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Muscato's Bella Cucina, 475 Central Ave., in the Kress building.

A series of art shows at different venues will continue through the week, concluding on Sept. 20 with a fashion runway show at One Progress Plaza. Among featured fashions are Chateau De Curb Gear, Helen Gerro, Boutique La Rochelle, Cerulean Blu and Purabell House of Fashion.

The nonprofit Warehouse Arts District will receive a portion of the week's proceeds to aid in purchasing the former Ace Recyling Compound at 22nd Street South and Fifth Avenue South. Six warehouses and offices will be converted to working space for artists of all mediums.

Approximately $350,000 is needed by Nov. 1. A closing date on the pending contract could be as soon as mid-December.

"This would be the perfect thing to get involved in and get things started off," says Crowley, owner of Luxe Fashion Group and VM Magazine. She also organizes other fashion charity events including Tampa Bay Swim Week and Cars & Couture.

Crowley is enthused by St. Petersburg's new spirit of growth. 

More residents are moving into apartments and condominiums. Boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars and start-up businesses are opening in the downtown core.

And St. Petersburg's reputation as center for art and innovation is growing, Crowley says.

"We really want to promote that and let people know (artists) are there and drive traffic to St. Petersburg,"  she says. "The art was always there. Now with the growth of the city artists are becoming more well known and getting more exposure and hopefully their businesses are doing better."

Warehouse Arts District President Mark Aeling says plans for the arts district's proposed campus include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub. About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

General admission for St. Pete Art & Fashion Week varies from no charge to $35. Tickets are currently available online for discounted prices prior to the event week. A limited number of VIP Wristbands are available for $80 and include entry to all events including the wrist-band only Opening Night Party. Guests with wristbands also will have front row seating for the fashion runway show as well as discounts at participating restaurants, bars and boutiques in downtown St. Petersburg.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District; Dona Crawley, St. Pete Art & Fashion Week

St. Petersburg Emergency Shelter Seeks Art Donations

The staff at CASA wants their future emergency shelter to bring sunshine and hope to the hundreds of families and individuals who need to escape domestic violence.

They also want to create a safe haven that is warm and comforting. And to do that, CASA is asking local artists to fill the shelter's rooms and walls with their donated artwork. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media are all welcome.

"We'd like the art to give the shelter a homey, friendly atmosphere," says Susan Nichols, CASA's grants and compliance coordinator.. "We hope it will be a peaceful environment, bright and cheerful. We have a lot of blank wall space."

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot building is under way, just north of downtown St. Petersburg. The expected opening of the shelter will be in late July 2015. A public showing of the donated art also is planned.

CASA is being aided with its "call to artists" by the nonprofit St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Funding for the approximately $10 million project is from multiple sources including state and federal grants and tax credits. 

CASA, which was founded nearly four decades ago, currently operates a shelter with 30 beds and aids about 300 families and individuals a year. But Nichols says they have 1,400 requests for help annually that must be referred to other shelters in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. "Unfortunately many times they are full there also," Nichols says.

The new shelter will nearly triple capacity with 100 beds in 50 bedrooms. There also will be a children's area, teen room, meeting room, a large conference room, offices, playground, outdoor areas and gardens.

Nichols expects about 800 individuals will be given shelter each year. The additional space and the building's design mean more families and men can be accommodated, she says.

Art donations are being accepted through April 10, 2015, at CASA's administrative office, at 1011 First Ave., N.  They are tax deductible as in-kind contributions.

Paintings and photographs should be framed. Murals preferably should be mobile art whether on canvas, wood or other hard surfaces. Textile pieces likely will be displayed in office areas rather than in bedrooms.

Arrangements can be made for the art to be picked up by sending an email to CASA, or calling 727-895-4912, Ext. 100.

CASA reserves the right to reject art that displays violence.

Each art work at the new shelter will be labeled with the artist's name and the work's title. The donations also will be recognized on CASA's website and its Facebook page.

None of the art will be resold but it will be exhibited at a public showing in late April 2015, Nichols says.

"We think it will be a great gift to show the community," she says..

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Nichols, CASA

What's Your Fave Renovation? Think St. Petersburg Preservation Awards

The building boom that will bring modern residential towers to downtown St. Petersburg is getting a lot of attention. But for many, the city's charm is in its architectural history and diversity.

Saint Petersburg Preservation, Inc., is ready to celebrate the best of St. Petersburg. The nonprofit is accepting nominations for the 2014 Preservation Awards. The awards recognize people, associations and businesses for their efforts to preserve, restore and complement the city's architectural history and sense of place.

Some past winners are preservationists of the Mirror Lake Lyceum, the Historical Kenwood Neighborhood Association and the owner of a 1920s bungalow and carriage house on Bay Street.

"They give a unique character to St. Petersburg that makes people want to come here," says Monica Kile, executive director of the preservation agency.

Nominations are accepted until Sept. 15. The award ceremony will be Oct. 24 at the Studio@620. There also will be an exhibit and sale of watercolor paintings of area landmarks by local artist Robert Holmes.

There are four categories: residential and commercial restoration and rehabilitiation; compatible infill; adaptive reuse; and residential and commercial stewardship. Also an award will be given to Preservationist of the Year. Descriptions of each category are available at the SPP website

“The Preservation Awards are a great way to highlight our community’s landmarks and for neighborhoods to take pride in the buildings and features that make their area unique and special,” says Logan Devicente, SPP’s awards program chair.  

While historic restorations are important, reuse of buildings and compatible infill also play a role in preservation, Kile says.

"We encourage good design that fits with the city," says Kile. "That can be a very modern design."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Monica Kite and Logan Devicente, Saint Petersburg Preservation

Roux Brings Creole-Style Dining To South Tampa

Two restaurants aren't enough to keep Suzanne and Roger Perry busy. And then there is the couple's love of New Orleans.

So before Labor Day, the owners of Datz and Dough plan to open Roux, their homage to New Orleans cuisine and the French quarter. Roux is at 4201 S. MacDill Ave., at the St. Croix Plaza, within a mile of Datz and Dough, also on MacDill.

A trio of chefs are collaborating on a menu described as Creole-nouvelle.

Suzanne Perry says collaboration defines New Orleans cooking with its centuries of Cajun and French influences. And most recently a flavorful dash of Asian has been added in deference to a city that now has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in America.

"We just love it," says Perry. "It's the most foodie city in the United States. We want to bring a little bit of that here."

A newer, fresher spin will be put on old New Orleans favorites from gumbo to etouffee to alligator. Po boy bread with a delicate crust and soft inside will be authentic New Orleans.

Richard Potts, formerly executive chef at Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg, is working on the menu with Toni Hayes, who specializes in Cajun cuisine, and Laura Schmalhorst, who is consulting on French dishes.

Designer David Jackson is creating a New Orleans' feel to Roux with mirrors, marble-topped tables, wrought iron and brick accents, gas lanterns and chandeliers. "It's ornate," Perry says. "It's visually the French quarter."

To begin, Roux will pour beer and wine. And, within a few weeks of opening, Perry says a New Orleans craft cocktail bar also will be open for requests.

Roux seats more than 100 guests. Initially lunch and dinner will be served with a brunch to be added later.

Roux and more has been on the Perrys' minds for awhile.

"We've been interested in having a collection of concepts up and down the MacDill corridor," she says. "A space became available that we liked. So, we took it."

MacDill Avenue is home to Datz and Dough as well as new boutiques, a yoga studio and art galleries that are laying a foundation for revitalizing one of the city's main commercial roadways. 

"All it takes is a couple people to come in and invest," Perry says. "We're invested because we live here. This is our neighborhood. A little bit of investment brings other people."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Suzanne Perry, Roux, Datz and Dough

Sundial Tenants Include Florida-Based Retailers

Florida talent will have the chance to shine at Sundial amid the latest national, regional and local retailers added to the upscale mall's tenant portfolio.

Sundial, owned by The Edwards Group, replaces the defunct Baywalk shopping complex at 153 Second Ave. N., in downtown St. Petersburg.

Tracy Negoshian & His, Florida Jean Company, Happy Feet, juxatapose apparel & studio, The Shave Cave and Jackie Z. Style Co., all have Florida or hometown connections. Other retailers recently announced by The Edwards Group are lululemon, L.O.L. Kids, Tommy Bahama, Swim 'n Sport and Marilyn Monroe Glamour Room.

Diamonds Direct is a previously announced tenant.

In the restaurant category, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Sea Salt, are joining Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market.

Rounding out the list are Chico's, White House Black Market and Muvico 19 + IMAX. All are holdovers from Baywalk.

Most shops will have "soft" openings by September. The restaurants and market will open by Thanksgiving.

“I am thrilled with the mix of retailers and restaurants we have been able to assemble,” says Sundial owner Bill Edwards, president of The Edwards Group.  “We have businesses that truly represent what a downtown shopping destination should be."

Jackie Zumba is among the Florida-based retailers who landed at Sundial.

For two years Zumba's shop, Jackie Z. Style Co., has been named "best boutique" by Sarasota Magazine. Zumba, 27, opened her men's and women's clothing boutique on Sarasota's Main Street in 2011 and will soon move into the new Mall at University Town Center. Her high-end brands include Moods of Norway, Psycho Bunny and Mr. Turk.

At 3,000 square feet, Zumba's Sundial shop will be nearly double the size of her original Sarasota store. "It will mean more room for men's suits, more high-end dresses, shoes and accessories," she says.

She was selective when it came to finding a second location. Miami didn't make the grade but a trip to St. Petersburg and a stroll along Beach Drive convinced her. 

"I was looking for something of Sarasota's local feel," she says. "(St. Petersburg) is a tight knit community that supports small businesses. I'm really excited to be part of it. The community seems excited. It's a good mix."

Other Florida-based notables include Tracy Negoshian & His, featuring trendy clothes for the entire family in designs with bold colors and prints. The St. Petersburg-based designer has hundreds of boutiques around the country including a flagship store in Naples.

Happy Feet got its start selling comfort footwear, including Birkenstock and Dansko, in St. Petersburg in the 1980s. There are nine stores now in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Juxtapose apparel & studio opened its first store in Hyde Park Village in Tampa in 2011. The shop offers women's contemporary fashions, home decor, and off-beat, one-of-a-kind artisan pieces.

The Shave Cave is the first hair salon from St. Petersburg founders of Mens Direct, which sells grooming products. Customers can sip craft beer, fine wine or whiskey while getting haircuts and hot towel shaves.

Florida Jean Company got off the ground nearly eight years ago as a home-based seller of preworn jeans scrounged from yard sales and thrift shops. Today the St. Pete Beach-based retailer sells everything from designer jeans to hats and shoes and board shorts. A shop opened on Ybor City's Seventh Avenue last year.

Celebrated Chef Fabrizio Aielli has owned several restaurants ranked among the top in the nation including Osteria Goldoni and Teatro Goldoni. He moved to Florida and opened Sea Salt in 2008 in Naples. One year later Esquire named  it one of the nation's top 20 best new restaurants.  Sundial is Aielli's second Florida location for Sea Salt.

Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market is a creative partnership between California-based chef Michael Mena and former New York-based chef Don Pintabona who is now living in St. Petersburg. Pintabona also is a graduate of the University of South Florida.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Jackie Zumba, Jackie Z. Style Co.

Tech Data Expands Clearwater Headquarters

A new 45,000-square-foot office building at the campus headquarters of Tech Data Corp. signals a renewed faith in keeping the Fortune 500 company's roots planted in Clearwater.

Founded 40 years ago, the Clearwater-based company is one of the  world's leading distributors of technology products made by companies such as Apple and Microsoft.  It operates in 100 countries and had about $26.8 billion in sales for fiscal year 2014, which ended on Jan. 31.

It wasn't a certainty that Tech Data would decide to stay when the topic of expansion came up.

Company officials did explore relocating but CEO Robert Dutkowsky says,"We decided to double down on Tampa Bay. I would think the community would take a deep breath and say Tech Data is committed to being here."

Tech Data employs about 9,000 people worldwide, with about 1,700 in Clearwater. The new facility "will accommodate additional office and meeting space, allowing us to operate more efficiently into the foreseeable future," according to an email from company spokeswoman Amanda Lee.

The new wing is adjacent to the approximately 240,000-square-foot headquarters building on Tech Data's campus, located north of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport at 16202 Bay Vista Drive.

St. Petersburg-based Hennessy Construction Services is the contractor for the facility.

As a major force in the technology industry and the largest public company in Tampa Bay, Tech Data can attract talent from Tampa Bay as well as worldwide, Dutkowsky says.

 Clearwater also is a factor in recruiting candidates, he adds. "This is a beautiful place to raise a family and to work and live."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Robert Dutkowsky and Amanda Lee, Tech Data

Old Warehouses To Be Renovated For Artists' Studios

The Warehouse Arts District Association is ready to launch an innovative plan to expand and preserve a growing artists' colony within an industrial warehouse district in St. Petersburg.

The nonprofit association has signed a contract to buy the former Ace Recyling Compound, a collection of six warehouses and offices at the corner of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South. The approximately 50,000 square feet would be developed as the Warehouse Arts Enclave, offering working space for artists working in all medium from painting to metal work and sculpture.

Other uses include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub.

"It's going to be completely transformative for the arts community," says association President Mark Aeling. He owns MGA Sculpture Studios in the Warehouse Arts District. "It's going to expand the arts district as a destination for people interested in finding out about art, how it is made. It's going to put St. Petersburg on the map."

By November 1 association members hope to raise $350,000. If so, a closing date on the deal could happen by mid-December. Potential funding could come from the city through a federally supported Community Development Block Grant. Fundraisers and donations from art patrons also will be sought.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"What we're trying to do is create a studio compound that is accessible to a wide variety of medium styles," Aeling says. "And, that is unique."

Other plans are being discussed. Because the Pinellas Trail loops through the district, an "Arts Gateway to St. Pete" with murals and artwork could tie in with the trail and bring visitors into the enclave. Among close neighbors to the trail are the Morean Arts Center for Clay and Duncan McClellan Glass.

Aeling foresees the Warehouse Arts Enclave as a "second-day destination" for visitors to St. Petersburg. On the first day there are the waterfront, The Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection, and in the future, the Museum of American Arts and Crafts. But he says, "Where art is made becomes a second-day destination. That puts heads in beds and fills restaurants. It's a huge economic driver."

To help with fund-raising or make a donation, email Where Art Is Made.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District Association

Amelia's Abubut Opens in South Tampa

As a teenager in Manila, Amelia Pestrak learned the skills of a tailor from her aunt. Sewing and tailoring are an artisan trade of long-standing for many of her relatives in the Phillippines.

Now for the first Pestrak is putting her skills to use in her own clothing shop -- Amelia's Abubut. She opened in April in a small strip center at 3644B Henderson Boulevard.

The name "abubut" refers to a keepsake closet of trinkets and things that hold special meaning for their owner.

Pestrak's shop is filled with casual apparel for women and children, most of which Pestrak designs and sews herself. Clothing racks offer a variety of choices in colorful prints from sun dresses for young girls to adult women's blouses and skirts.

Amelia's Abubut also has purses and accessories including jewelry and scarves. There are even a few pot holders, aprons and cups around. Pestrak hopes people who stop by will find "your special thing."

The shop was in a mess when Pestrak moved in after a 4-month search for a South Tampa location. She and her husband, University of South Florida architect Walter Pestrak, cleaned up the space. 

They painted the walls in bright yellow, added a fitting closet and display cases. Furniture and curtains add splashes of color. Walter Pestrak describes the shop as "bright and colorful" like his wife Amelia.

She grew up on a farm in rural Phillippines. But as a 16-year-old she moved to the urban province of Manila where she began learning how to sew and tailor clothes.

Some might find it boring but Amelia Pestrak says, "I love to do it."

And she gets satisfaction when people, including family, wear her clothes. "She's wearing what I did a long time ago," says Pestrak of her 92-year-old mother.

Pestrak has worked a long time as a tailor but a quiet retirement didn't suit her. "I don't want to just stay home," she says.

For now Pestrak's sewing equipment is at her home. But she plans to move it to the shop and stay busy turning out her hand-made keepsakes and watching her business grow.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Amelia Pestrak, Amelia's Abubut

USF, All Children's Hospital Partner For Research Center

A research, education and training facility is now in the planning stages following a land transfer by the University of South Florida to the All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.

USF officials signed over 1.4 acres of land to the hospital as a gift. In return USF received $2.5 million in state funds as part of an overall agreement worked out among state officials, legislators and the governor's office. The land was deeded by the state to USF in April with the understanding that it would then be transferred to the hospital by late June.

The transferred land, at 601 Fourth St., is next to All Children's Outpatient Care Center and the Children's Research Institute.

The facility will focus on research and innovations in pediatric care and childhood diseases. In partnership with All Children's, USF officials anticipate opportunities for the university's medical students for training, pediatric residency and expanded education for health science undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows.

"This collaboration shows the sustained commitment of both organizations to provide the best training for USF Health medical students and all our residents and strengthen the USF Health pediatric residency program affiliation with All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine," says Jonathan Ellen, president and physician in chief as well as pediatrics professor and vice dean at All Children's.

State records regarding the land deal indicate plans for an approximately 300,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $65 million to $85 million, creation of about 400 design and construction jobs, and more than 20 staff and faculty positions.

But hospital officials say there are no details on the facility or a construction date as yet.

"You had a dream, you didn't want to start and it not happen," says Roy Adams, All Children's communications director. "It's like we're happy to be given the property so now we can start planning."

Nearly three years ago the private, not-for-profit All Children's Hospital became the first hospital outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area to join the prestigious Johns Hopkins Health System. A U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital ranked All Children's in the top 50 in three specialty areas.

The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jonathan Ellen and Roy Adams, All Children's Hospital-St. Petersburg

Virginia Pharmaceutical Company Moves Into Roskamp Institute In Florida

Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded firm working to develop medications for inflammatory conditions and neurological disorders, is relocating its headquarters to Manatee County's Roskamp Institute, a leading national research facility that specializes in Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

The Bradenton EDC assisted the Glen Allen, VA based pharmaceutical firm in applying for rapid response permitting to facilitate the move into the 3,000-square-foot space at the Roskamp Institute in Tallevast in south Manatee County. Rock Creek also received a performance-based grant of $48,000 from the Manatee County government to help fund its relocation. To qualify for the incentive, Rock Creek has agreed to create 16 high-impact jobs over the next five years that provide an average wage that is twice the Manatee County annual average.

"The Sarasota-Bradenton area is becoming a new and growing hub for life sciences and bio-technology,'' says Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek's VP for Corporate Strategy and Development.

"If we're successful, we have the potential to grow a lot bigger. I think a 16 employee count is a conservative number,'' Jenkins adds.

Roskamp CEO Dr. Michael Mullan, who is also the CEO and chairman of Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, worked alongside Roskamp President Dr. Fiona Crawford on the neurological science team that discovered the first-known genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease in 1992.

"The affiliation between the two organizations is poised to bring leading-edge therapies to the life sciences market,'' says Sharon Hillstrom, Bradenton EDC President and CEO, in a news release.

In recent years, Rock Creek (formerly Star Scientific, Inc.) discovered the anti-inflammatory components of anatabine, a minor alkaloid found in tobacco, while researching smoking-cessation alternatives for nicotine addicts. Jenkins says the firm is currently focused on creating FDA-approved drugs that will leverage anatabine's anti-inflammatory components to help with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, as well as diseases of the nervous system, behavioral disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

"We are increasingly finding out that numerous diseases out there have an inflammatory component,'' Jenkins says.

"I believe we have a very unique compound. It's seen extraordinary results in vitro, in vivo and in pre-clinical animal models. It shows great promise to address potential treatment for major inflammatory based diseases.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals

Tampa Bay Innovation Center Opens TEC Garage

Up to 30 start-up businesses in science and other fields will be nurtured at TEC Garage, a new incubator opening in August on the campus of St. Petersburg College.

The venture is under the tutelage of the Largo-based Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses.

TEC Garage, which stands for Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of the college's Downtown Center at 244 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The new incubator will offer space for new businesses in science, technology, engineering, arts and digital media. Three clients have been signed: Toonari Media, which uses social media and online resources to conduct investigations,  Dock-n-Lock, which offers methods to reduce texting and other distractions while driving, and My OnCall Doc, which is an on-demand video provider for physician services.

The location is only the beginning of a broader vision for encouraging startups amid an explosion of business and residential growth in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It seems to be ... an entire renaissance, something bringing new growth to St. Petersburg and something very exciting," says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The anticipation is for 15 to 30 new businesses to settle into the TEC Garage. About 40 to 80 people can work there depending on how the space is designed.

“We want to give our local entrepreneurs every resource and tool they need to thrive, and believe this program will help create and keep jobs right here in our community," Elmore says.

There will be reserved office space for rent and coworking space. And Elmore says TEC Garage will offer something not every incubator provides -- coaching for individual clients.

The incubator will operate at the college for at least three to five years. The long-range goal is to move into a permanent downtown location in a much larger building of about 40,000 square feet. There could be opportunities for the college location to continue as a satellite office.

"This is a natural complement to the college's values of leadership, innovation and partnership," says Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College.  

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Tonya Elmore, Tampa Bay Innovation Center; Bill Law, St. Petersburg College

New Contemporary Art Studio Moves Into South Tampa

The boutiques, art galleries and restaurants along MacDill Avenue, just north of Bay to Bay Boulevard, are bringing a new vibe to to one of South Tampa's main thoroughfares.

On May 31 a new contemporary art gallery -- CASS (Contemporary Art Space and Studio) -- will be the latest arrival on the neighborhood scene, starting off with exhibits by Los Angeles artist Michael Turchin and Tampa artist Chris Valle.

Husband and wife duo, Cassie and Jake Greatens, believe Tampa is on the verge of a "big city" re-invention of itself. And South MacDill is part of that transformation. It's why they chose this location, at 2722 S. MacDill, to open their first art gallery.

They see the potential for MacDill to become to South Tampa what Central Avenue is to downtown St. Petersburg, a place where the funky and creative get together in a walkable community with art crawls and food tours. 

"We're headed in the right direction," says Cassie Greatens. "There is a population here that wants that. When you have that kind of energy, anything can happen."

Long-time MacDill anchors are Beef O' Brady's and the Salvation Army discount store. But upscale interior designers, a yoga studio, restaurants and boutiques are changing the landscape.

Their front door opens into a spacious, all white gallery with a smaller, intimate space in the rear of the building. It was formerly work space for Michael Murphy Gallery, located across the avenue.

"We want to be able to feature installation art. Keep it clean and keep it simple," says owner Jake Greatens.

Turchin and Valle's works will be on display from May 31 through July 3. Turchin is known for eye-popping color and patterns in his graffiti inspired art. His art has been commissioned by celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Lance Bass and Lisa Vanderpump.

Valle is a painting instructor at University of Tampa who has exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries. His art explores the influences of entertainment on sexual roles, norms and stereotypes.

Exhibits will change every two to three months. The Greatens are looking for artists for the next exhibit.

The art at CASS is about what it means to an individual not whether it matches the home decor. 

"It's what's amazing and speaks to you," says Cassie Greatens. "We want the gallery to have movement, not just sit here and have art on the wall."

The couple are from Lakeland, Fl., and graduated from the University of Tampa. Jake Greatens creates mixed, media paintings and anticipates an exhibit of his work in about eight months.

In the future, the couple hope to offer an internship. They plan to invite emerging and established artists to offer workshops and lectures.

"We're trying to be more interactive," says Jake Greatens.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake Greatens, CASS

Ridgewood Park Opens A Little Free Library

Electronic readers and tablets may be the wave of the future for many book readers. But an old concept -- the free lending library of printed books -- is finding new life in neighborhoods wanting to build a sense of community.
 
The concept has been popularized by Wisconsin nonprofit, Little Free Library, since 2009. The libraries pop up in yards, along bicycle trails and in parks in the guise of small wood boxes perched on thick posts and stuffed with paper books. The idea is to take a book to read and leave a book for someone else to read.
 
On April 12 Ridgewood Park residents will celebrate their Little Free Library, located in a linear park in the 2300 block of Glenwood Drive, off Columbus Drive. 
 
A day of celebration kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments and live music. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is a guest speaker for the unveiling. The free library is funded with a mini-grant from the county's neighborhood relations office.
 
"I've wanted one for ages for the neighborhood," says Stacey Warder, president of the Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association. "It's not only literacy building, it's a unique piece of art. It's community building."
 
Ridgewood's Little Free Library is joining nearly 15,000 other libraries that have sprouted across the world. Wisconsin craftsman, Todd Bol, started the literacy movement when he built a tiny replica of a one-room school house and set it out on his lawn. He placed a sign saying "free books" and invited neighbors to share and swap books. Bol was honoring his mother, a former school teacher with a passion for reading.
 
The Ridgewood library resembles a little house. Warder added a coat of primer and artist Angie Cannata, of Lodestar Studio, constructed a glass mosaic with trees and a tin roof. Cannata also crafted a glass mosaic with the neighborhood's logo and Tampa's skyline in the background, which was installed on a storm drain cover. The neighborhood of bungalows is bounded by Columbus Avenue, North Boulevard and the Hillsborough River.
 
Shellie Posey will serve as library steward, checking to make sure the box is supplied with a mix of title selections. Initially, about 30 or so donated books will fill the box. 
 
Warder says a second library box has been ordered for children's books. It will be placed next to the first Little Free Library, and also added to the world map.
 
As an official Little Free Library, the site will be added to the Little Free Library's world map. "It's quite impressive," Warder says. "They are all over the world."
 
Little Free Library encourages the spread of these free libraries in a variety of ways. They sell the ready-made libraries but they are just as happy to see other nonprofits, individuals or organizations adopt the concept and build their own.
 
Mitzi Gordon, founder of Bluebird Books Bus, is a free library enthusiast whose nonprofit has sponsored four free libraries, two in St. Petersburg and two in Tampa. The most recent was set up in Seminole Heights.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Stacey Warder, Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association

SMARTstart Gets Second Business Incubator In New Port Richey

One success leads to another as the Pasco Economic Development Council prepares to open a second business incubator site for its SMARTstart program, this time in New Port Richey.
 
A May 1 opening for the new business center is planned inside a city-owned former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. City officials also are looking to open a city-operated "maker-space" program to encourage business creation.
 
The building had been unused for some time, says Krista Covey, SMARTstart's business incubator manager and PEDC's economic development manager. "They (New Port Richey) were trying to support entrepreneurship and spur business development in downtown New Port Richey," she says. "We obviously have had great success with the Smartstart program."
 
SMARTstart will occupy the largest share of the approximately 9,000-square-foot building. Covey says two potential start-up applicants are under review. "They have not been approved yet," she says.
 
About 40 volunteers pitched in to spruce up the building in April. Work crews are completing renovations, including painting and installation of an emergency exit.
 
The partnership of SMARTstart and the city's maker-space program is "a first that I'm aware of," says Mario Iezzino, New Port Richey's economic development director. "It's a really great marriage between two concepts that are able to help get viable new businesses started."
 
The city is awaiting funds for maker-space, probably in the fall, Iezzino says. The program is designed to give entrepeneurs the tools to turn ideas into businesses.
 
"It brings in a different kind of entrepreneur," he says. "We have a lot of tinkerers. It's another way people can bring their ideas out of the garage."
 
The new SMARTstart incubator will be modeled on the first one at the Dade City Business Center, which has five on-site start-up companies and two off-site companies. The start-ups are The Busy Buddy, Stephanie Reed Photography, Innovative Payroll Services, H.B. Whitaker, Arielle Management Group, Flying R Group LLC, and Computers Etc.

An open house is scheduled for the business center from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Suite 103, Dade City.
 
SMARTstart offers resources and support for people starting a business, moving from a home-based business or re-establishing a business. Services include consulting and mentoring, one-on-one counseling, business plan development and marketing advice.
 
A network of agencies and organizations provide support including Saint Leo University whose faculty and students assist in developing business and marketing plans.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mario Iezzino, City of New Port Richey
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